Changing times haven’t affected the enthusiasm with which the ten day-long Mahim fair is being held this year. Held in the honour of the Sufi saint, Makhdoom Ali Mahimi (1372-1431) the Mahim fair at the dusty Mahim beach is full of people on giant wheels, toy trains and enjoying gravity-defying stunts in the ‘Maut Ka Kuan’.
The qawwali tradition is being celebrated by the locals, too. “Hindi songs are not sung because they can get boisterous. Each singer comes and gives their nazariayana (respect) to the God and Baba. They all speak about how different religion say the same thing,” said Mohammed Aslam, who organises qawwalis at Wajewadi.
“Listening to them is like paying your respects to Baba. You remember him and his teachings,” said Arvind Tambole, one of the people who attended a qawwali after going to the dargah.
The cops go easy even if the qawwalis go on till late into the night. The Mahim Fair is the only time when the police participate in an official capacity apart from providing security cover. It is a policeman who has the honour of applying sandalwood paste on the saint’s grave, and offering it a chadar. There are three different versions of the story behind the involvement of the police. Ramrao Desai, senior police inspector of the Mahim police station, said, “A sepoy served water to the saint while he was dying. That is why the police have been putting the first sandal and the chadar on him.”
According to another version, Baba was very close to the investigative arm of the police. He helped them crack a case and, out of respect, an assistant sub inspector offers the first sandalwood and chadar,” said L B Shaikh, advisor of the Sandal committee of Hazrat Maulana Makhdoon Ali Saheb Fateh Ali Shaha, the police wing that organises the first sandal that is offered. Islamic scholar.
Asghar Ali Engineer says that, in 1891-92, the city witnessed a brutal riot. So, the then police commissioner began offering the first sandal as a call for communal harmony.
It takes seven hours for the sandal to reach the police station from the Dargah in the midst of the police band and other bands.
Another misconception amongst the people is that the festival marks the birth or the ‘Urs’. “It is only a mela in the honour of Makhdoom Shah Baba held every December. Many people call it Urs which is wrong as it means the death of a person,” said Sohail Khandwani, managing trustee of the Pir Makhdoom Shah Fakhi Charitable Trust, which takes care of the dargah.
People also arrange for community eating. “We provide rice mutton curry free to whoever comes,” said Salim Chaus who claimed to have fed 600 people.